Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Story of Joseph - We Have A Problem

Once Angela got my phone number she used it all the time. She would often call twice a day just to check in. On hot days she would call and tell me to take Daniel to the lake. She would call and remind me to give Daniel his juice. She would call for any little reason that popped into her head.

If this were happening today I would put my foot down and refuse to take her calls. It was unacceptable that Dippy gave Angela our home number and I should have stood up for myself at the time. I guess there must have been a part of me that wanted Angela to like me though. I think I thought we had to get along. So I took her phone calls and I was friendly towards her in spite of her general contempt for me.

Even more uncomfortable than the phone calls were my face to face encounters with Angela. Every time I saw her she would tell me I was doing something wrong. How I dressed Daniel was a frequent topic. Daniel was living with us right in the middle of a very hot and humid summer. Often times when I would take him to visits I didn't put socks or shoes on him. After all, he was just a baby and he didn't walk or crawl so it seemed pointless to me to put socks on him and make his feet sweaty. Angela didn't like this. So then on the next visit I would have socks on him and she would complain that his feet were too hot. Then I would put sandals on him and she would complain that they pinched his feet. All of this was just the tip of the iceberg and she complained to both me and Dippy about almost everything I did.

It was always hard for me to not remind Angela that she wasn't exactly a model parents herself. I won't go into specifics but I will say that Angela had her children removed from her care for a reason. This was not a case of a good mom wronged by an over-zealous system. This was a woman who really needed to not be responsible for the well being of children.

Angela only saw Daniel for a couple of hours a week but she still made a lot of the decisions affecting his day to day life. Daniel spit up more than any baby I've ever known. If you fed him a six ounce bottle it was not unusual for him to spit up at least 4 ounces. I was pretty sure he had reflux but Angela refused to let us get him checked out for that by a doctor. We were pretty much stuck with Daniel spitting up all over us and himself all the time.

In the county we were licenced in there was a rule that when he had a child below the age of 5 in your care you had to get them a well baby screening within 15 days of them coming to you. I scheduled Daniels screening and then was told by Dippy to cancel it because Angela didn't want him to have it. I told her that I didn't want to cancel it and that I worried that if someone ever discovered that he had never had his screening then I would be blamed for it. Dippy assured me that it would not be a problem.

It was a problem though. In addition to the spitting up, I had concerns about Daniels development. At six months old he didn't really do a lot of the typical stuff for kids his age. If you laid him on the floor he would pretty much just lay there like a slug. He didn't try to roll over or move at all. He just laid there.

My hands were tied though. Angela was still the one making the decisions. Why didn't she want Daniel to get medical attention? She actually told me that other parents who had lost their children told her that if a doctor discovered a long neglected medical condition in Daniel that it would look bad and maybe affect her chances of getting him back. She was willing to let Daniel go without medical care so that she would look better as a parent. It boggles my mind to this day.

Daniel was getting some medical care though. Since his visit to the ER Daniel's infection had to be monitored fairly closely by doctors. Angela wanted Daniel to see a very specific doctor in a clinic that looked more like a crack house than a doctor's office. She would come to all of his appointments and it was always really uncomfortable. She never wanted me to tell anyone that I was Daniel's foster parent so she would tell everyone I was her friend. Her friend that she glared at and muttered about under her breath.

All the medication that Daniel was on gave him a terrible diaper rash. We changed him frequently and used diaper rash cream but the rash was still really bad. When you went to change him he would cry and cry, you could tell it made him really uncomfortable. Finally the rash started to get a little bit better but the weeks of irritation had caused a little discoloration all along his little butt crack. I pointed it out to the doctor at the crack house clinic and she said it would fade away soon.

One very hot afternoon I took Daniel to the visitation center to see Angela. Our usual routine was that I would try to get there a little bit early so that I could bring Daniel in to the visitation room, leave him with the visit supervisor and be our of the room before Angela got there. On this particular day we got there a couple of minutes later than usual and I was just getting Daniel situated in the room when Angela came in.

"Daniel!" Angela called.

He didn't look at her at all. He kept looking at me and smiling and reaching out to me. I got up to leave the room and he continued to watch me and and smile at me. Angela kept calling to him but he never even acknowledged her. When I left the room Daniel started to cry.

I went to the waiting area and started to read my book. I could hear Daniel still crying. At one point his cries became more frantic. I recognized it as his usual diaper change cry. Except it didn't stop. He just kept crying and crying and I wondered what in the heck was going on. After a little while his crying stopped and then I could hear Angela speaking angrily. I couldn't hear what she was saying but I could tell she was upset. A moment later Angela walked into the waiting room holding Daniel. Her eyes were red and swollen. As they passed me Daniel reached for me and Angela roughly switched him to her other side so that he couldn't see me. She walked across the waiting room and and into the office area of the visitation center. She crossed back again, this time followed by a woman I had never seen before.

When it was time for the visit to end Angela didn't come out. The people at the visitation center had always been good about ending visits on time before so I wasn't sure what to do when it appeared the the visit was running long. I just sat there waiting for someone to let me know what was going on. About 20 minutes after the visit was supposed to end the woman who had walked out of the office with Angela came in. She came towards me and said "I'm Carol, I'm the supervisor for this center."

"Hi Carol!" I said brightly. "Where's Daniel?"

She paused for a moment then looked me right in the eye and said "Jennifer, we have a problem."


Cathy said...

OH geez. That poor baby!

Caustic Cupcake said...


This has been a great story; you are a terrific storyteller.

Radiomom Rhetoric said...

Ohhh---Part of me was a little mad at you--for NOT FINISHING THE STORY!!!! LOL

Kidding--I am not mad at you....just waiting with anticipation.

~*Kathi*~ said...

this has me on the edge of my seat....I cant believe the trouble that you had with the system and his mom...shame on them and her.
Enjoying your blog!!

nell said...

Oh no! That poor kid, and you said she had other children, too?

Caustic Cupcake is so right, you're darn good at this storytelling business!

Ben said...

Sigh. You've always been a better writer than me.

There, I said it!

Gunfighter said...

OK, this is my first visit toy your blog, and you suck me in with this story.


Jen said...

cathy - I know. It makes me ill to think what kind of a rotten deal that poor kid got.

causitc cupcake - Thank you! It's been rather theraputic telling it.

radiomom - Hang on, there's a lot left to tell!

kathi - I'm so glad you're enjoying the story. Daniel's story made the flaws in foster care very clear to me.

nell - Yes, Anglea had five children. She probably has a dozen by now.

ben - Yes, if by "better" you mean "more frequent. otherwise I'm not so sure.

gunfighter - Thank you for visiting! I'm glad you're enjoying the story.

Sam said...

Oh snap! More! More!